Yesterday afternoon, as I was driving back home, I had this sudden flash of when my sweet little boy was merely five years old and starting his first day in kindergarten at the “big school,” with his big brother. I can still see him in his color-coded uniform, blue pants and white shirt, carrying his backpack that seemed much bigger than his tiny frame could handle.
Maybe it was seeing the little kids getting off the school bus that brought on this sudden feeling of nostalgia. Who knows, but I have been feeling very nostalgic lately. Words cannot describe how proud I am of my son, who has overcome so many obstacles to achieve the milestones that many others don’t even think twice about.
I too have come a long way. The journey isn’t always easy but it’s always beautiful, filled with love and a scenic road that is intrinsic and unique as it is meant to be. I find comfort now in the same place that once brought me fear. The unknown of autism is no longer unknow. It is my home because it is my son’s home. I’ve mended myself to fit his space and I have adjusted myself to conform to his needs and, hopefully, help lessen his anxiety.
When I once found the silence to be deafening, I now appreciate his need to be quiet and alone. I understand him being by himself is not him feeling lonely. It is his desire to be in the space he needs and wants, on his terms. I am grateful for the patience my son has shown me when I didn’t’ always understand his needs.
I’ve learned long ago to let go of the “what if’s”: What if I started his therapy earlier, would it have made a huge impact on his life today? What if I started him in an adapted school right away, would he have been better off? What if he stayed in a mainstream school in high school, would he have had more opportunities? What if I die tomorrow, who will take care of him? What if he didn’t have autism, would he still struggle as much? What if he could drive, would he have more friends?
We cannot be in a healthy space living in the “what if’s”. There is no room for what if’s in my son’s world – in our world. The “what if’s” can be a dangerous place to live in. They can hold you back from moving forward in your journey. More importantly, the “what if’s” lie to you all the time. The “what if’s” play a mini movie in your mind, seemingly showing you a glimpse of what could have been. All of this is false, and none of it matters. What matters is the present moment, the reality of what truly is standing before you. Letting go of the “what if’s” will allow you to be present in the moment, to be vulnerable in face of the unknown and resilient as you overcome challenging times.
This winding road we travel is paved with many uncertainties and I know I will still make many mistakes along the way but I’m no longer living in the falsehood of my “what if’s”.
I am consciously in the moment, being fully aware that when I once stood in front of my son as his voice and advocate, I am now standing behind him, supporting him, my hand on his back, as his voice is becoming louder than mine.
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